iPhone XS Beautygate Much Ado About Nothing

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(Photos by Halide, both taken Raw on iphones)

Apple is both beloved and hated. When they have a new product out it's immediately copied by every other camera manufacturer. As much as Android lovers insist that their products are better, without Apple, there would be no innovation. Look at the infamous notch at the top of the iPhone X. No other camera had that look or feature... until now, when they all do. 

When you're a trendsetter, new technology can often be questioned by those who don't fully understand it... because it's new. When the new Apple iPhone XS came out there was something different about how the front-facing camera took selfies. Something the internet (mostly people on Reddit) quickly dubbed "Beautygate".

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(Photo posted by Redditor Chemicalsam )

The complaint is that Apple is automatically applying a beauty filter to your images with the front-facing camera in the iPhone XS... and there's no way for you to turn it off. 

Sebastiaan de With, designer of HALIDE, the camera app that allows you to take RAW images with you iPhone explains that there's no secret beauty filter. It's all about noise reduction:

"After testing the iPhone XS side by side with the X, we found the XS prefers a faster shutter speed and higher ISO level. In other words, it takes photos a lot faster, but comes at the cost of noise.

Unless you have bionic arms, it's impossible to hold your phone perfectly still for this long. To get a sharp, perfectly aligned burst of images, the iPhone needs to take photos really fast. That requires a shorter shutter speed -- and that, in turn, means that there will be more noise in the image.

That noise has to be removed, somehow, and that comes at a cost: noise reduction removes a bit of detail and local contrast."

Apple will adjust the amount of noise reduction in future patches and upgrades, but it's not about making you look better. It's about cheating technology. The higher iso and shutter speeds create a problem that they solved with an algorithm. It may not be perfect, but it's smart and will only get better as time goes on. So, Apple is not trying to make you look more beautiful without your permission. If you want a deep dive, check out HALIDE'S blog.